That is the key for Ubaldo Jimenez. There is a line full of good numbers for Jimenez, eight innings pitched, five hits, one earned run, eight strike outs. All of those numbers show a great performance by the right-hander. All of them are great, but the number that is key to all of them is the one walk.
When Jimenez is pitching in the strike zone, he can mix his pitches effectively. Lately, Jimenez has had no luck getting his off-speed pitches anywhere near the strike zone. That allows opposing hitters to sit on the fastball, then tee off.
When the breaking pitches are strikes, it allows Jimenez to use his fastball with more confidence. He isn't using the pitch to get ahead in the count, he is using it to get guys out. When his breaking pitches are in the strike zone, he becomes far less predictable to hitters.
Far too often in 2011, Jimenez has struggled with his command. He finds himself in deep counts and has to rely on a fastball that still lacks the velocity that it had a season ago.
However, even with reduced velocity, Jimenez can still be one of the best pitchers in the game when he is confident and throwing all of his pitches for strikes.
In typical Rockies fashion, the club is playing better baseball right when they were on the brink of no return. Right after their starting pitchers posted an ERA above 11.00 in a four game set in Atlanta, they have looked like a completely different team on the mound in Washington. Jason Hammel and Jimenez have been outstanding in back-to-back nights.
The concern still lies with the offense. Despite two wins in two nights, the offense has scored a combined five runs. Even with Carlos Gonzalez on the bench again, the lineup simply isn't performing like everyone thought that they would. The anticipation of the starting eight putting it all together has turned from a when to an if. The fact is, this team has far more talent at the plate than the San Francisco Giants, but they can't find ways to execute the way that teams with less talent than them do on a regular basis.
Huston Street may be the next Harry Houdini. Despite having runners on first and third with no one out, Street wiggled out of the jam, getting Laynce Nix to strike out, then getting the biggest free agent bust, Jayson Werth to ground into a double play to end the game.
With a win on Sunday, the Rockies will somehow finish off a road trip that started as a disaster and turn it into acceptable. They also have a chance to go into the break less than seven games out in the National League West. At the beginning of the week, when Troy Tulowitzki joined Carlos Gonzalez on the day-to-day list, it looked like the club might go into the break nine or ten games out. Instead, they could keep their fans believing just a little longer.